It’s time for part two of Ten Pieces of Equipment for New Formulators ❤️ If you’re looking for part one, you can find it here. You might not need everything in part two straight away, but I think you’ll probably want to have most of these items within the first two months of making. Let’s dive in!

Ten pieces of equipment for new formulators: Part 2

Want to see all this equipment?

Watch Now

Something to keep in mind; all of this equipment is for making fairly small batches of your formulations. This is partly because that’s best practice for new formulators and anyone working on a new formulation, and partly because that’s all I do. I typically share upwards of 80 new formulations every year—if I made big batches of everything I’d be run out of my home pretty quickly by giant tubs of body butter and hundreds of tubes of lip balm! If you are looking for equipment for scaling up and selling I’m afraid that’s not something I can advise on as it’s something I never do (and have no interest in doing).

Wondering what ingredients you’ll need as a new maker?

Immersion blender

What it’s for

Immersion blenders are an inexpensive and accessible high-shear mixer option for home formulators. I primarily use my immersion blender to create emulsions—lotions, creams, emulsified body butters, etc.

What to consider

The three characteristics I care the most about are the size of the blending head, how easily the head detaches, and how heavy the entire blender is.

The smaller the head, the smaller your batches can be, and smaller batches are a great way to reduce waste as you iterate and learn. You want your batches to be large enough that the blender can be fully submerged so you don’t incorporate a bunch of air. The bigger the head of the blender > the wider your working vessel has to be > the larger your batch has to be.

I like to remove the blending head from the motorized bit of my immersion blender both as I work and to clean it. I have a more expensive immersion blender (the Dynamic MiniPro with the homogenizer attachment) with a hard-to-remove blending head and I don’t like that I have to drag the entire blender to the kitchen to clean it. I also can’t leave the blender sitting in a beaker as it is very top-heavy and will crash over with the motor attached.

And weight! I prefer my blender to be on the lighter side. Speaking of that expensive immersion blender—it’s really heavy! Between the weight and the hard-to-remove blending head, I find I rarely use it for my needs. If you’re making large batches you might really appreciate the extra power, but I wouldn’t recommend investing in one as a new maker.

What I recommend

My immersion blender is an older one made by Braun and I really like it; I purchased it second-hand while I was living in Toronto (2008?) and it’s still going strong over ten years later. For reference, I’m pretty sure the one I have is this one, but holy moly, don’t pay $200 for it.

I know some people prefer an immersion blender with a fully metal blending head; I have both and tend to choose the one with the plastic head because it’s lighter. Let your personal preference guide you here.

pH strips or meter

What it’s for

Checking the pH of your hydrous formulations!

What to consider

Strips are cheaper than a meter, but less accurate. A meter is far more accurate, but also far more expensive.

If you are formulating with lots of ingredients that have very precise pH requirements, you should invest in a digital pH meter. As a new maker, the most likely precise-pH-requirement ingredients you’ll be working with are natural preservatives.

If you don’t want to shell out for a pH meter when you get started, I’d recommend starting with formulations (and ingredients) that don’t have very precise pH requirements. Liquid Germall™ Plus has a broad effective range of 3–8 (with some makers reporting it works at higher ranges as well), making it really easy to work with—you generally won’t have to worry about the pH of your formulations falling outside of that range unless you are working with very acidic or very basic ingredients.

If you are wanting to get into making lotions and surfactant formulations and are finding that daunting enough without adding pH concerns to your plate, here are some good starter formulations:

Learn more about the ingredients that dramatically impact the pH of our formulations here.

What I recommend

If you’re planning on getting pH strips, look for the sort that has four little squares to match to different pH values; Lise has written about her favourites (and how to use them) here. If you’re in the USA, you can purchase the strips she recommends from Lotion Crafter.

I have the Apera AI311 (USA / Canada) pH meter, and I like it, though I don’t have a collection of pH meters to judge it against! I purchased this pH meter back in 2017 and I’ve been happy with it.

Gloves

What it’s for

Gloves are a barrier between your skin and your products. They protect your skin from pure ingredients that can be irritating/sensitizing/dye your skin, and reduce product contamination.

What to consider

The more comfortable your gloves are, the more likely you are to wear them. I highly recommend seeking out and purchasing gloves that actually fit. Gloves that are too big impede your dexterity. Buy gloves that come in different sizes, and buy your size. For reference, I generally wear small gloves, and most places that sell gloves in just one size sell them in medium, so I usually have to order online.

What I recommend

I have nitrile gloves; my current box is Kirkland brand (from Costco). You can get thicker rubber gloves (the sort you’d use for dishwashing)—these will last longer, but are thicker, meaning you’ll have less dexterity (and more sweat).

Pipettes

What they’re for

We use pipettes to precisely dispense liquid ingredients—especially ones that we use at low usage rates. The pipettes are not for measuring, they’re for weighing out ingredients drop-by-drop.

What to consider

The size/volume of the pipette is the most important thing to consider. I have 3mL and 1.7mL pipettes; I use the 3mL ones for ingredients like hydrosols and carrier oils, and the 1.7mL ones are mostly used for fragrance and essential oils.

To reduce waste, I often use elastic bands to fasten pipettes to the side of the bottle/ingredient I’ve used them for (upside down, to reduce mess). This allows me to re-use the pipette until it inevitably splits. I don’t do this with potent ingredients like preservatives, essential oils, or fragrance oils, though—that creates far too many opportunities to have undiluted ingredients contact your skin.

What I recommend

Start with some larger (~3–7mL) ones; if you’ve got room in your budget it’s a good idea to get some wee ones as well.

TIP: More viscous liquids, like glycerin, castor oil, and Liquid Germall™ Plus don’t dispense well with pipettes. For ingredients like that, I prefer to swap out the cap for a turret-style one that allows drop-by-drop dispensing without struggling with a spluttering pipette.

Want to see all this equipment?

Watch Now

Item #10

Just like I did with item #10 in Ten DIY Ingredients for Beginner Formulators: Part 2, this last item is a choice between two things depending on what you are most interested in making.

Coffee grinder

What it’s for

You’ll use a coffee grinder for grinding up/powdering ingredients and formulations. I primarily use my DIY-only coffee grinder for making coloured cosmetics, making powdered formulations (like powder-to-foam cleansers), and powdering/grinding down ingredients that need to be smaller for whatever I’m making (botanicals, whole oats, larger flake solid surfactants, etc.). A coffee grinder is a surprisingly useful piece of equipment to have in your studio!

What to consider

The size of the grinding dish is important—the larger the dish, the more it needs to have in it to effectively grind. I’ve found most “normal” coffee grinders are totally fine—I wouldn’t recommend sourcing out something that brags about its capacity as that is likely to be too large.

What I recommend

I’d recommend getting a blade grinder made by Krups or Braun; I’ve had good experiences with their grinders. They last for years!

TIP: Use a sheet of cling film sandwiched between the lid and the grinder to reduce the volume of the grinder—less mess + a faster blend!

Electric beaters

What it’s for

Just as we do in the kitchen, electric beaters are for whipping air into things—mostly body butters and whipped scrubs. If you’re not interested in whipped formulations you won’t need a set of beaters. Electric beaters are not a good alternative for an immersion blender (or vice versa) as they’re designed to whip air into a product, not purée/blend it.

What to consider

I find the beater attachments the most useful, though if yours comes with a whisk as well, score! My mixer is a second-hand Oster one.

What I recommend

My making-mixer is one I picked up for less than $10 at a thrift shop as I don’t make enough whipped formulations to need anything extra-sturdy—I think that’s a good place to start!

If you aim to start a business you might want to eventually invest in a stand mixer—Ariane uses a stand mixer for her whipped body butters, and since the stand mixer has a nice slow-mix mode it’s also useful for other tasks like mixing up bath bombs and shampoo bars.

Honourable mentions

Thermometer

A thermometer is a useful thing to have, but I think you can get on just fine without one in many circumstances, especially if you’re using a water bath to heat things (I discuss this more in this video). I have a Tilswall brand infrared thermometer that I got for about $25 on Amazon, and it works just fine. Whatever you get I recommend something with a fast, digital read-out (so not a traditional mercury-in-glass one!) and something that has a broad enough range to cover formulating temperatures (not a body thermometer—those typically won’t register “you’d be dead at that temperature” temperatures, but those temperatures come up in formulating!).

Mini Mixer

My “Mini Mixer” is a powerful milk frother made by Bonjour. What makes this mixer special is that it takes four AA batteries instead of the more standard two, meaning it’s got a ton of kick and can actually provide the mixing speed and strength needed for small-batch emulsions and other formulations that really need a blendin’. Hooray! Very useful and recommended if you can find one.

Micro Mini Mixer

My “Micro Mini Mixer” is a Badger Air-Brush Co. 121 Paint Mixer; it’s a motorized mixer with a really wee blending head. I use mine almost exclusively for making really tiny batches of colour cosmetics. I probably wouldn’t bother getting one if you have no interest in making makeup.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This